Friday, May 15, 2009

Ratings coming to Thailand this June

Thailand's much delayed motion-picture ratings system is now set to be enacted in June, according to a story by Kong Rithdee in today's Bangkok Post (cache).

While it is a positive step away from the blinkered, sloppy and inconsistent censorship, it has problems:

  • Films can be banned if they are deemed a threat to "national security". That's troubling, and pretty vague. It could mean anything. Now it just codifies a practice that has been going on for a long time.
  • The "P" rating for "films that should be promoted". Again, what the heck does that mean?
  • The 20+ rating. That's too restrictive. There's already an 18+ rating (in addition to "general audiences", 13+ and 15+. According to the article, the lower age restrictions are just recommendations, friendly guidelines. But there will be ID checks for 20+ movies, with legal consequences if the law isn't followed.

Anyway, read the article for more details of the bureaucracy that's involved.

Kong also interviews a number of figures -- prominent filmmakers and executives from theater chains and distribution companies -- getting their views on the ratings system.

Among them is Apichatpong Weerasethakul, who has more than a few choice words, which is understandable -- under this ratings system, he still wouldn't be able to show an uncensored version of his latest feature, Syndromes and a Century, because six scenes were deemed harmful to "national security", even though ... ah, geez, I get so angry thinking about it I can't even, uh, think. Here's a snip (cache):

This rating system is not a solution for our weak national cinema culture. We always cannot accept reality but accept hypocrisy. We cannot in the near future make or see a decent film about the South, rotten past rulers, the corruption of the Sangha, among other realities. Going underground? Perhaps. Look at China."

Yeah, look at China. Director Lou Ye is back in Cannes after being banned for five years for Summer Palace. He's brushing off fears that he'll be in trouble again for his new film Spring Fever.

Is that the future of Thai cinema?

Kong also interviews filmmaker Prachya Pinkaew, the director of the ultra-violent action movies Ong-Bak, Tom Yum Goong and Chocolate and producer of such varied films as Sick Nurses and The Love of Siam. He had a hand in drafting the law and has served as its chief apologist and watchdog. But even he has a problem with the 20+ rating:

I'm most worried about the 20-plus rating. This is a harsh rating and by designating it, I think the law implies that it would permit extreme content -- that it would open up the playing field -- for films that fit this classification. But I doubt if the state will really allow 'everything' for the 20-plus rating, because the wording that accompanies the ban order is vague -- 'detrimental to national security', this could be interpreted so broadly that we'll end up having the same problem. This element of the law means the government still wants to exert a measure of control."

And that's what I'm talking about.

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